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Aston Martin Parts Ways With LeEco on RapidE EV Program

Project scales back – but other EV models, including version of DBX ute, likely to follow.

by on Jun.27, 2017

Aston Martin plans to have the RapidE battery-car in production in 2019, but in low volumes.

Aston Martin has released renderings of its first fully electric vehicle, the RapidE, a battery-based version of its four-door Rapide sports sedan.

But the British maker is also confirming that it is scaling back the program, which was aimed at producing a competitor to the likes of high-end versions of the Tesla Model S. Splitting from its Chinese-owned partner, LeEco, Aston now plans a “limited run” of just 155 RapidE battery-cars.

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The break-up was first reported by the Reuters news service, quoting Aston CEO Andy Palmer. A well-placed source confirmed that report for TheDetroitBureau.com, but also noted that, if anything, Aston has plans to keep pushing into the battery-car space with additional models, starting with a version of the upcoming DBX sport-utility vehicle.

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Waymo Teams Up With Avis, Apple With Hertz in Autonomous Vehicle Push

Volvo expands its autonomous alliance with Autoliv with addition of graphics tech firm Nvidia.

by on Jun.27, 2017

Avis will handle the basic storage and maintenance for Waymo's Phoenix ride-sharing program.

Waymo, the autonomous vehicle spin-off from Google, has signed a deal with Avis to have the daily rental giant manage some of the self-driving vehicles it is operating in the Phoenix area as part of a ride-share test program.

Apple, meanwhile, is reportedly teaming up with Avis rival Hertz program, in this case to lease a handful of Lexus SUVs that it will modify as part of its own autonomous vehicle project – something that Apple CEO Tim Cook recently described as “the mother of all AI projects.”

Come Along for the Ride!

In the race to get autonomous, along with more advanced driverless, vehicles on the road within the next decade, established automakers and tech firms alike are lining up to find partners that can help accelerate their development programs.

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General Motors Cuts Sales Forecast for 2017

Analysts are revising their predictions for 2017 downward as well.

by on Jun.27, 2017

GM extended summer shutdown at certain plants as it tries to shrink bloated inventories in a market it believes isn't as strong as last year.

General Motors, which has been scaling back production since last fall as inventories of unsold vehicles have grown, revised its sales forecast for 2017 downward, with senior executives now saying that U.S. sales will drop into the “low 17 million” range.

With the consensus of the auto industry now suggesting a downturn is taking hold, another key forecasting service also announced it was cutting its outlook for 2017. LMC trimmed its full-year 2017 forecast for new vehicle sales for the third consecutive month, pegging it at 17.1 million units from its previous forecast of 17.2 million.

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“As the U.S. auto market enters the fourth month in a row of a sub-17 million unit selling rate, nerves are being tested,” Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, said in a release. “It will be challenging in the second half of the year to keep pace with 2016 … but a year still expected above 17 million units should not be considered a poor performance.” (more…)

BMW Investing Another $600M in South Carolina Plant

Despite Trump tweets, Germans are top auto exporters from U.S.

by on Jun.26, 2017

A BMW employee in Spartanburg, SC works on the maker's new 2018 X3 utility vehicle.

BMW plans to invest another $600 million to update and expand its Spartanburg, South Carolina, assembly plant, the automaker announced Monday, while adding that the move will also create another 1,000 jobs.

The move comes barely a year after the Bavarian carmaker completed a previous, $1 billion investment in the nearly quarter century-old factory that is now the single-largest source of automotive exports from the United States to markets abroad.

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The announcement comes barely a month after BMW and other German manufacturers were attacked by President Donald Trump who, in a tweet, called them “Very Bad,” while seeming not to recognize the significant number of products German companies produce in the United States. (more…)

BMW Unveils 3rd Generation X3 and First-Ever M-Edition

Bigger, lighter, more powerful.

by on Jun.26, 2017

BMW is adding the first true performance version of the X3 with the debut of the M40i.

BMW has rolled out a steady stream of hits since opening up its Spartanburg, South Carolina assembly plant more than two decades ago. And now, it’s updating one of the most popular of those models with the debut of the 2018 BMW X3 Sport-Activity Vehicle.

With the launch of the third-generation ute, BMW has opted for evolution, rather than revolution, though there are enough changes to likely catch the fancy of compact crossover fans. Among other things, the Bavarian maker is introducing the first M version of the X3, albeit the mid-range M Performance line.

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The new X3 comes along at a perfect time considering the radical shift in consumer demand. Even luxury buyers have migrated from sedans to utes. At the same time, that’s something that’s landed on the radar of key competitors, Jaguar just announcing plans to launch its second SUV model, the compact E-Pace, for 2018.

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Jeep Wrangler Takes Most American Vehicle Title — This Week

Cars.com proclaims Jeep has top spot, while Kogod claims otherwise.

by on Jun.26, 2017

For 2017, Cars.com proclaimed the Jeep Wrangler the "most-American" vehicle although not everyone agrees.

The most American vehicle made is the Jeep Wrangler … except when it’s the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.

Trying to determine what constitutes “most American” is an exercise that plenty of experts seem to be more than willing to take on, but rarely produces consensus.

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For the record, the Wrangler was proclaimed the “most-American” vehicle by Cars.com after it topped the website’s “American-Made Index.” (more…)

What Does Takata Sale – and Airbag Recall — Mean to You?

Tens of millions of motorists still at risk.

by on Jun.26, 2017

High schooler Huma Hanif was one of at least 16 killed by faulty Takata airbags, most in the U.S..

In 2008, Honda announced the recall of 4,000 older Accord and Civic models equipped with potentially faulty airbags that could malfunction during a crash. Today, that has grown into a cross-industry recall covering more than 42 million vehicles on U.S. roads.

Because Takata airbag inflators can malfunction during a crash, spewing shrapnel into the passenger compartment, the problem has so far been linked to at least 16 deaths, most of them in the U.S., along with more than 100 injuries. Yet, only slightly more than a third of the affected vehicles have been repaired.

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Is your vehicle carrying around one of these potential time bombs? How can you find out and what can you do if that car, truck or crossover is on a recall list? Who will pay? And what do you do if your Takata airbag did malfunction? Here are some things to consider now that Takata has declared bankruptcy and been sold to Chinese-owned Key Safety Systems:

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Takata Declares Bankruptcy, Assets Sold to Chinese-Owned Key Safety Systems

Recalls, victims compensation fund to move ahead.

by on Jun.26, 2017

Takata's scandal is ultimately expected to cost $9 billion, according to some Japanese reports.

Blamed for the largest safety recall in automotive history and hammered by over $1 billion penalties and other costs following a guilty plea in U.S. federal court, Takata Corp. filed for bankruptcy overnight, most of the assets of the company being sold to Key Safety Systems, a Chinese-owned automotive supplier based in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Takata has been blamed for knowingly marketing faulty airbags that can improperly inflate during a crash, sending plastic and metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment. At least 16 people are known to have died due to the defect, most in the United States, with more than 100 others injured.

Breaking News!

Nearly all automakers have used at least some of the faulty bags, from niche players like Rolls-Royce and Ferrari to major manufacturers such as General Motors, Volkswagen and Honda. It has been estimated that a quarter of the light duty vehicles in use in the U.S. use Takata airbags. Currently, about 42 million are or will be recalled, as federal regulators are staging their safety campaign, targeting older vehicles first due to a shortage of replacement airbag inflators. Tens of millions of other vehicles are being recalled outside the U.S.

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New Car Sales Hitting the Skids in the US

June sales expected to be 4% lower, KBB says.

by on Jun.26, 2017

New vehicles sales are expected to drop 4% on year-over-year basis in June, according to KBB.

The decline in new vehicle sales appears to be accelerating after a 4% year-over-year drop during the month of June, according to Kelley Blue Book estimates.

KBB puts total sales of 1.46 million units in June 2017, resulting in an estimated 16.3 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, one of the lowest recorded in the past two years when SAARs of 17 million plus have been the norm as sales of new vehicles reached record levels.

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“Kelley Blue Book projects June will be yet another down month of sales with expected declines in both fleet and retail,” said Tim Fleming, KBB analyst. “With manufacturers continuing to announce production cuts at their plants following weaker consumer demand, it all but solidifies 2017 as a down year.  (more…)

First Drive: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

A performance SUV we won't Pass on.

by on Jun.23, 2017

The Stelvio is the first SUV ever from Alfa Romeo - though more are in the works.

The rain is falling in heavy sheets, the windshield wipers beating time in an effort to keep up. Some other drivers have begun pulling off to the side waiting for things to clear up, but we only tip deeper into the throttle as we slice our ways through the corners on our drive through the heavily wooded hills of Tennessee.

We’ve got miles to put on, and the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio seems to be relishing the drive. Sometimes, it’s maneuvering through the worst conditions that reveals the most about a new vehicle, and by the end of our journey we’ll be learning a lot about the Stelvio, the Italian automaker’s first-ever SUV.

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Just starting to roll into showrooms across the U.S., the Stelvio is Alfa’s third new product line, sharing space with the little 4C sports car and the only recently introduced Giulia on dealer lots. Though longer and taller than the sports sedan, the SUV shares the same mechanical underpinnings and, as we quickly learn, pleasantly similar driving dynamics. The Giulia was a revelation to drive and now, with the arrival of the Stelvio, Alfa is more than justifying its existence with the sort of performance model the SUV-crazed American market has been waiting for.

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